by Michael Coren
First published in Great Britain by Boxtree
ISBN 0 7522 6156 8
Review by Chris Crawshaw
After reading this book, I wondered at what market the author had aimed this
volume. It's not just that it is easy to read. I have no problem with that;
it's the feeling of being talked down to that bothered me. He also tends to
put in phrases which are intended to add a personal touch, personal from the
point of view of those about whom he is writing. For example, in the first
chapter concerning the first years of Tolkien's life and the death of his
father you get
Poor Arthur. Poor Mabel. Poor little boys. Statements such
as this occur on more than one occasion, usually associated with the death
of a beloved one. In Chapter seven we read,
Goodnight Edith. Goodnight Luthien.
I found such comments unnecessary and somewhat distasteful. It was like reading
a children's book in which phrases are repeated for a child learning to read
(e.g. See Spot run. Run Spot run!).
However all that aside, as previously mentioned this book is very easy to
read. It contains a brief insight into Tolkien's life, without going into
minute details about the publishing of The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings.
This is covered, of course, but in a few pages (the whole book is only 133
pages including the index). Michael Coren does have a tendency to write the
biography as though he was there and knew what was happening at any particular
time, down to each cup of tea and each pipe smoked. During the chapters on
The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings, he gives brief summaries of the stories
for those who have not read them. He seems to have had a different version
to the ones I have read. There is a reference to Lotho Simple, and it is Sam
the grey rain curtain turned all to silver glass!
Personally I found the book irritating. It does however contain some wonderful photographs, many of which I had not seen before. I actually bought it for those alone, but whether the price of £12.99 is worth paying just for the photographs, I will leave that up to you.